Microsoft isn't known for giving away software, but right now you can download the Top 100s by Year by Bing app free of charge. (Catchy name, huh?)
The app streams the top 100 songs of every year from 1947 to 2009. That's 62 years, for a grand total of 6,200 songs.
Whose top 100? Not Billboard's, as you might expect. Nor is the list based on sales. Instead, according to developer Nutsie, these are "lists of songs that have stood the test of time based on their initial and lasting popularity, and on their impact on the overall scope of musical history."
Um, OK. Sounds a little strange, but I can't say I find fault with any of the lists. Look back to, say, 1976, and you'll find every gem from Tom Petty's "American Girl" to The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK." It's worth noting that the lists include some live performances, an unexpected treat.
Now for the bad news. Each top-100 list can be played only in random order. Although you can scroll through the selected list and tap any song to preview it, buy it from iTunes, or even see a YouTube video, you can't choose individual songs to play. As the app notes, "we are required to play all the songs in shuffle like a premium radio channel."
At least you can skip past songs you don't want to hear, but don't be surprised to see intrusive Bing ads from time to time. In fact, this app is really a Bing-branded promotional version of an eponymous app from Nutsie, which sells for $1.99. In exchange for saving two bucks, you have to put up with occasional come-ons to download Microsoft's Bing search app. And after listening to a few songs, you have no choice but to download it.
That's annoying, to be sure, but ultimately a small price to pay for so much great music. And even though I was born in 1968, I'm having a blast perusing and playing the songs that were popular in the '50s and even '40s. It's like an on-demand lesson in music history.
So gripe all you want about the app's ads and limitations--I think Microsoft deserves a thank-you for this seriously entertaining freebie.